Alice Delisle read the letter three times, the disbelief fading into a growing sense of sick dread. Not trusting her voice at this moment, she texted the message. "Come by my office when you get a chance. - Delisle"
The sick feeling lasted most of the day, and only got worse when Jyarl finally arrived. "What is it?"
"Close the door, please. And take a seat,"
she said. Jyarl did so, clearly puzzled, but waited for her to begin.
"It's about the adoption. It's been six months, so I sent off the application for it to be finalized. I thought it would be a fairly routine matter, but I was mistaken. They want to do some interviews first, with you and Jefferies."
"This is just a formality, right?"
Jyarl asked. "They just need to see she's happy and healthy and that I'm not mistreating her, and that'll be it?"
Delisle met his eyes. "Jyarl, they've raised some concerns. I don't think it's likely that they'll reject you. But... it's possible."
Jyarl just stared at her for a moment, before he said in an deceptively calm voice, "Concerns?"
"There are some questions about your past. Enough testimonials on your behalf - and I will bother Vas on her vacation for this - should take care of that. But the other issue is the species thing. Apparently there is a wish that children should be raised by same-species parents wherever possible."
"****ing hells, Delisle! She was practically feral when I took her in! All her ribs were showing and she had signs of rickets! Now she's happy and healthy and able to be around other children, and knows she's a person and not a ****ing greenie! For Throne sake, I gave up my House for her! What more do they want?"
Jyarl had gotten to his feet, shouting at her.
"I know, Jyarl. And I'll say all that, every bit. Bugs will write a report on your behalf for the health stuff - physical and mental. We all know you've been a good father to her, and that--"
"THEY WANT TO TAKE MY DAUGHTER AWAY FROM ME!"
Delisle decided not to respond. He was angry - he had every right to be angry - but nothing could be done until he'd spent his rage and was able to listen.
Then suddenly he was
calm again - too
suddenly. Delisle realized his implant must have dispensed something that calmed him. Did he control it, or had that happened automatically? She didn't know enough about how it worked to say.
"Tell me what I need to do to keep Jefferies."
Jyarl had made five different plans. Two different plans for running away with Jefferies, one plan to use blackmail, and one involving taking hostages. If he'd still had access to House funds, bribery would have been on the table too. But of course the plan that was best for everyone, especially Jefferies, was to convince the social workers to approve the adoption.
"We're going to meet some grownups today who are going to talk to you and ask you a lot of questions,"
Jyarl said to Jefferies, while Missy braided her hair. "I want you to answer them truthfully, but if they ask you anything you don't want to answer, you don't have to."
They were trying to hide their worry, but of course she picked up on it. "Can you come wif me, Daddy?"
"Me and Missy will be in the next room. Very close. But I know you're brave and smart enough to answer the questions without me."
"Are dey hard questions? Like how to read?"
Missy shook her head. "No, they already know about how well you do at school, and how smart you are with numbers. They'll ask you questions you know the answers to."
"Can Master Chief come wif me?"
"Sure thing, slugger. She can even help you answer questions if you want."
They'd discussed whether to coach her answers, and decided that anything Jefferies said from the heart would be more convincing.
"Why are dey asking me stuff?"
This was the question they had dreaded, and had decided on an answer that would best satisfy Jefferies without giving her a hint of what might be at stake.
"Their tribe boss said they had to. They aren't Remnants tribe, but they want to be friends."
By agreement, it was Missy who had to say this, as Jyarl couldn't bring himself to speak the last part without growling.
Jefferies said. "I be nice to dem den."
The three of them walked hand in hand from the Riftline, the two adults occasionally swinging Jefferies off the ground between them to make her laugh. At the social welfare office, they were introduced to the three social workers making the decision. They were Aliswyn, a female elf; Kardo, a male goblin; and Nurmi, a male human. As they took Jefferies into the interview room, Missy's neural net transmitted their faces to Remnant's database.
When the result came back, it took all her cybernetically imposed self-control to keep her expression neutral. Jyarl would have to be told, but not here. Not now. Not while Jefferies was in this building.
Missy intended that the three of them would be safely home before she told him that Nurmi was in Remnant's records as a known sympathiser of the human supremacist movement.